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When storing homemade cookies and cookie dough for later use (maybe next week, maybe next season), the goal is to keep them fresh. With simple kitchen materials and a few basic tricks, you can them get pretty much all the way there.
First, you’ll need to get familiar with the main adversary to any cookie’s freshness: air. Prolonged exposure to open air makes starchy foods stale. Air exposes these foods to greater evaporation (even if through just a slit), making them dry. Think of a drink left out overnight: There will be less of the liquid in that cup in the morning, and cookies work in a similar way.
Minimizing air exposure is the key to preserving cookies. You can do this in several ways, depending on your batch size, timeline, cookies, and preferences. But the worst way to store cookies no matter the circumstance? A cookie jar. Yes, really. They may look adorable on the counter, but despite their name, cookie jars on their own are usually not fully airtight. Similarly, cake stands and other displays aren’t great for storing cookies for more than a few hours. They tend to have ample air under their high tops, eliminating crispness and textural contrast, leaving cookies a touch hard.
Now that you know what you’re after, here’s how to store cookies as well as cookie dough to maintain that oven-baked goodness.
When to Store Cookies in the Freezer
“Freeze” tends to be a bad word but shouldn’t be in the case of cookies. If you intend to eat baked cookies more than four days after baking them, turn to the freezer. (Same for cookie dough you won’t bake same or next day; more on that below.) Baked cookies keep in the freezer for a year, while raw dough is best used within a few months.
How to freeze cookies: Use sealable plastic containers designed for the freezer. Don’t use themed tins (say, for Christmas cookies). You can put cookies in tins like these once you’ve removed them from the freezer.
When to Store Cookies in the Fridge
Cookies can last in the fridge for two weeks but eating them sooner is better. Store cookies in the fridge in a fully sealable plastic bag or plastic container.
When to Store Cookies at Room Temperature
Cookies stay optimal for two or three days unrefrigerated. If your cute cookie jar isn’t airtight (or if you don’t know) and you’d still like to use it to store cookies on the counter, put your cookies in a sealable plastic bag before storing them inside the jar and zip your cookies in, keeping air out. The same is true for cookie tins. Sealable plastic containers and bags can keep cookies in good shape for the few days they might spend at room temperature — just tuck the bagged cookies inside these other vessels.
When should you move new homemade cookies from the kitchen shelf to the fridge? Cookies made with more perishable ingredients, like ricotta cookies, jam cookies, or meringue cookies, will need cooler temperatures within a few hours of baking. Look to the fridge (or freezer) if they’ll be around longer.
If you have a type of cookie cut from a big sheet, like rainbow cookies, knife cookies from the big sheet as you are ready to eat or serve them. This approach works wonders for keeping this type of cookies moist.
How to Reheat Cookies
There are two ways to reheat cookies: If you want pure softness, use the microwave. If you want a little bit of softness but also to keep some of the cookie’s crispness, heat for two or three minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees F (and for a minute or two longer if reheating cookies from the freezer).
Biscotti, polvorones, and other dryer cookies can become too dry during reheating, so skip this step. Simply leave them out to thaw. If you’ve stored them well, these don’t need any more heat, and they will even taste great a bit chilled.
The Best Way to Store Cookie Dough
According to the USDA, homemade cookie dough lasts for two to four days in the refrigerator, and it should be stored in small containers. Frozen cookie dough, however, can last for up to two months.
There are two ways to freeze cookie dough: shaped into ready-to-bake individual cookies, or as a whole undivided batch. To freeze pre-portioned cookies, set them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or greased. Freeze the sheet for an hour (preventing them from sticking). Transfer cookies to an airtight container, then store them in the freezer.
This method works very well for simple cookies like chocolate chip, more so than cookies that incorporate jam, fresh citrus juice or zest, or meringue.
Freezing unportioned batches of cookie dough to be shaped later is also possible. This works great for plainer cookies, like sugar and gingersnap. In fact, if you mean to use a cookie cutter, slightly chilled dough can help cookies retain their shape. (Just be sure to leave enough time to defrost dough ahead of time.)